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Calcium is important at all ages for strong bones and teeth. This Food Fact Sheet lists how much calcium different people need, what foods and drinks are good sources, and how you can add it to your diet.

Why do I need calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that is needed to maintain strong bones. It is also needed for healthy muscle and nerve function.

How much calcium do I need?

Table 1 - Daily guideline amounts

Group

Age (years)

Calcium (mg) per day

Infants

Under 1

525

Children

1-3

4-6

7-10

350

450

550

Adolescents

11-18

800 (girls)

1000 (boys)

Adults

19+

700

Those who are breastfeeding

 

1250

Women past the menopause

 

1200

Men over 55 years

55+

1200

Coeliac Disease

19+

1000-1500

Osteoporosis

19+

1000

Inflammatory Bowel disease

19+

1000

You are more at risk of calcium deficiency if you:

Where do I get calcium from?

Calcium in dairy products

Quantity

Calcium (mg)

Cow’s milk, including Lactose free

100ml

120

Sheep’s milk

100ml

170

Goat’s milk

100ml

100-120

Cheese:

Cheddar

Edam/Halloumi

Cottage

matchbox-size:

30g

30g

30g

 

222

238

38

Cheese triangle

1 triangle (15-17.5g)

84-138

Yoghurt (plain)

120g

181 (low fat)

193 (whole)

Fromage frais

1 pot (47-85g)

80-128

Rice pudding or custard pots

1 pot (55g)

60

Malted milk drink 

25g serving in 200ml semi-skimmed milk

444-800

Rice pudding

½ large tin (200g)

198

Custard - tinned

1 serving (120ml)

110-127

Milk chocolate

30g

68

Non dairy sources of calcium

Calcium-fortified products

Calcium-fortified plant-based alternatives to milk e.g. soya, oat, nut, coconut, pea, rice* drinks

100 ml

120-189

Soya bean curd/tofu (only if set with calcium chloride (E509) or calcium sulphate (E516), not nigari)

100g (uncooked weight)

350-400

Calcium-fortified soya, coconut or oat yoghurt and soya dessert or custard 

100g

120-211

Calcium-fortified coconut cheese

1 portion (30g)

45-221

Calcium-fortified infant cereals

1 serving (20g)

120

Calcium-fortified cereals

30g serving

136-174

Calcium-fortified instant hot oat cereal

1 tbsp dry cereal (15g)

200

Calcium-fortified bread

1 slice (37-50g)

84-179

Sardines (with bones) (in tomato sauce, olive oil, brine)

½ tin (60g)

273-407

Pilchards (with bones)

1 serving (60g)

150

Tinned salmon (with bones)

½ tin (106g)

115 (pink)

174 (red)

Whitebait

1 small portion (50g)

430

Scampi in breadcrumbs

6 pieces (90g)

90

White bread

2 large slices (100g)

155

Wholemeal bread

2 large slices (100g)

106

Pitta bread/chapatti

1 portion (65g)

90

Orange

1 medium (120g)

29

Broccoli, boiled

2 spears (85g)

36

Kale

100g boiled

150

Spring greens

1 serving (75g)

56

*Children under four and a half years old should not have rice drinks as a replacement for cow’s milk, breast milk or infant formula.

N.B. Spinach, dried fruits, beans, seeds and nuts contain calcium but they also contain oxalates and/or phytates which reduce how much calcium your body can absorb from them. They have therefore not been listed and you should not rely on them as your main sources of calcium.

Can I get enough calcium in a vegan diet? 

Yes! There are lots of plant-based foods and drinks that contain calcium listed in the table above. 

Many plant-based alternatives to dairy products in the UK are fortified with calcium (they have extra calcium added to them). It is important to check that the products you are buying contain added calcium as many organic products, for example, are not fortified. Without added calcium, these foods and drinks do not have a noticeable amount of calcium.

Remember that most plant-based alternatives to dairy, like rice, oat or nut drinks, contain less protein and calories than cow’s milk.

Meals and snack ideas

  • Start the day with cereal (many are calcium-fortified) with milk (or a calcium-fortified milk plant-based alternative.
  • Use tinned sardines or pilchards (with the bones) instead of tuna in a sandwich or on toast.
  • Have a stir fry including calcium-set tofu, broccoli spears and chopped nuts. 
  • If your child will not drink milk, include milk and milk alternatives in meals and snacks instead.
  • Add yoghurt (or a calcium-fortified plant-based alternative) to fruit as a pudding or 
  • Use milk or a milk substitute (calcium-fortified) to make custard and milk puddings.
  • Include foods containing dairy or a plant-based alternative e.g. lasagne, cheese on toast, pancakes, naan breads, scones.
  • Try a glass of low-fat milk or a plant-based alternative as a snack or to help rehydrate after exercising.

Healthy lifestyle advice for healthy bones

  • Be active - weight-bearing activities like walking, aerobics, cycling, running and tennis are best. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity, five times a week.
  • Smoking is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, low bone density and increased risk of hip fracture. Stopping smoking prevents further excess bone loss.

Vitamin D and calcium

Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium from foods. For more information about how to meet your requirements see our Vitamin D fact sheet.

Calcium supplements

It is best to get enough calcium from food. If you are unable to meet your daily requirements from food alone, you can take supplements to top up your intake. If you are taking medicines, other supplement products, or if you think you need more than 500mg of extra calcium; it advisable to discuss this with a pharmacist, doctor or dietitian.

Top tips 

  • Getting enough calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth & muscle and nerve function.
  • You need Vitamin D to absorb the calcium in your diet. 
  • Don’t forget, low-fat dairy products have the same amount of calcium as the full-fat versions.
  • Remember to check plant-based alternatives to dairy have added calcium (often called ‘fortified’). Most organic products are not calcium-fortified. 
  • Most people can get enough calcium from a varied and nutritious diet, but there are supplements available if this is difficult for you.